This article examines the role of image culture in producing collective memory and opportunities for transnational solidarity in Alex Rivera’s science fiction film about the US-Mexico borderlands, Sleep Dealer (US/Mexico, 2008). The article shows that the film offers two contrasting spaces and aesthetics for producing collective memory that differently configure spectatorial interaction and social intervention. Counterposing the hyperindustrialized military vision of the fictional reality TV show Drones with the social media–styled memory market TruNode, the film’s caricature of neoliberalism demonstrates that embodiment in digital image networks emerges as a mode of intervention into the biopolitics of memory. Embodiment becomes the ghost in the machine of the film’s vision of neoliberal labor and memory markets. By focusing on the particular aesthetic means by which the film thinks through the different terrains of collective memory, the article shows that the militarized vision and real-time temporality of Drones produce control effects of visibility like those that currently characterize the borderlands. In contrast, the haptic and entangled aesthetics of TruNode produce a visibility of what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri term “the flesh of the multitude” that offers opportunities for new forms of recognition and political alliance. Sleep Dealer provides an ambivalent theory of visibility and the production of collective memory within a neoliberal frame that sheds light on the biopolitical effects of image culture.
China Medel; The Ghost in the Machine: The Biopolitics of Memory in Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer. Camera Obscura 1 May 2018; 33 (1 (97)): 113–137. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-4336861
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